“And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?”
Our Lord’s conduct outraged the religious leaders. The carpenter from Nazareth had, presumably on His own authority, not only expounded upon the Mosaic Law, giving it unique interpretation and application (Matthew 5:21-48), He pronounced people forgiven of their sins, completely circumventing the Temple program (Matthew 9:2; Luke 7:48). The last straw for these men came when our Lord marched into the Temple and forcibly removed the money-changers (Matthew 21:12-13). Who is this Man Who claimed to be a greater prophet than Jonah (Matthew 12:41), a greater king than Solomon (Matthew 12:42), and a greater foundation and paradigm for God’s religious system than even the Temple (Matthew 12:6)? The religious leaders demanded to know where His authority came from. The Lord responded, “I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?” (Matthew 21:24-25a). Here the Lord had them on the horns of a real dilemma. They reasoned, “If we shall say, from heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet” (Matthew 21:25b-26). “We cannot tell,” was their final answer. The Lord replied, “Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things” (Matthew 21:27). This encounter illustrates the important fact that God will withhold truth from those who have no interest in it (Isaiah 6:8-12; Acts 28:25-27). The religious leaders were only interested in pursuing their own self-serving goals, interests, and agendas. The truth about the ministries of John and Jesus mattered nothing to them. Unfortunately, this kind of thinking supersaturates our world. I once saw an instruction guide for teens who thought they might be gay. In the Q and A section, I saw the question, “What do I do if my church teaches that being gay is sinful?” The answer: “Find another church.” There was not the slightest interest in whether or not the church’s assertion was true. This lack of concern about knowing the truth is tragic because it is the truth that set us free (John 8:32); it is the Truth Incarnate that gives us life (John 6:47), hope (Romans 5:2), and strength (Ephesians 3:16; 6:10). He alone can meet our every need (Colossians 2:10) and satisfy our heart’s every longing (Psalm 37:4). May we be people who seek the truth earnestly, and may our conduct and witness encourage others to do likewise, for God’s glory and the good of those He loves.